Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif. -- When the 655th Transportation Company started its route clearance lane, July 16, at Fort Hunter Liggett, its Soldiers found themselves in a unique position. Unique perhaps, for any of the other units training at CSTX 91-18-01. The 655th was tasked with delivering all the fuel for the entire field exercise, so their platoon was split in two, as 23 Soldiers missed the training lane to pick up fuel from Fort Irwin, Calif., instead, hauling as much as 30,000 gallons each trip.Capt. David Bjork is an observer coach/trainer team leader with 3rd Brigade Support Battalion, 409th Regiment, 4th Cavalry Multi-functional Training Brigade, First Army Division East. In addition to coaching the 655th through their lanes, Bjork also monitors their real-world convoys as they resupply the exercise with fuel."This exercise has thousands of Soldiers using lots of equipment and lots of fuel," Bjork said. "Our partnered unit here is a line-haul fuel company. That's what their main mission essential task is, is to line-haul fuel with these 7,500 gallon tanks."So instead of contracting that out, it made sense to use this unit."While part of the platoon was re-supplying the exercise with fuel, the others were gaining valuable experience on the lane. "I thought it was awesome. I'm a private, so I was really trying to soak up as much knowledge as I can," said Transportation Specialist Private Joshua Halliburton. "I got a lot out of it."Halliburton commented on the unit's rapid improvement. "That first iteration we kind of went brain-dumb. After we had a hot wash we came right back into it, and we continued to get better and better," Halliburton said. "The OC/Ts were there, telling us what we were doing right, what we were doing wrong. We just tried to improve what we were doing right and correct what we were doing wrong."Sgt. 1st Class Keith Nash, an OC/T with 3rd Training Support Battalion, 383rd Regiment, 4th Cav. MFTB also noticed the unit's growth."A lot of this is geared to getting back to being a Soldier. The training we did tonight, at first it was 'what do I do,'" Nash said. "Further into the lane, that was gone. They knew what to do, they knew how to act, and worked together as a team. They just went and did it; it became second nature to them again."Tonight I saw them grow immensely," Said Nash. "They came together real well, and made their unit look good."655th Transportation Company Executive Officer, 2nd Lt. Christian Peak served as convoy commander for the route clearance lane. While Peak admitted he would prefer the Soldiers were not pulled away from training, he asserted that they also benefit from conducting the mission.
"They didn't get to practice route clearance, in an austere environment, and we will have to clear our own routes to transfer fuel," Peak said. "But they gained drive time and wheel time, which is huge for them, because that's real-world training."The Soldiers have been getting a lot of it. "They've gone on five trips to Fort Irwin and back. It's a good opportunity for these Soldiers to gain confidence, not just in a long line-haul, but some of these younger Soldiers haven't had a lot of experience carrying 6,000 gallons of fuel behind them," Bjork said."They don't have the same huge hills in Millington Tennessee as they do here in California, so they're getting more experience and more confidence driving with all that fuel behind them," said Bjork. "When they're training they don't have that fuel behind them, and they're not going up these steep inclines so this gives them another element of training they wouldn't be able to do at home."And it kills two birds with one stone, because they are getting all the fuel you need for the exercise."